Researchers affirm what Christian families have known intuitively for years: families that eat together, pray together and play together are stronger. But today's crazy schedules and priorities are making it more difficult to make every day count, even in the simplest ways.
That's why we're excited to make it easier for you to invest a bit of time each week on family devotions. We have compiled 52 weekly devotions for the coming year that you can start anytime. Each contains faith-affirming biblical principles that will help you do what no one else in this world will ever do as well as you: help build a lasting, thriving faith in God into your child’s heart.
Not ready to sign in yet? Start by trying the additional family devotions below.
The Benefits of Joy
Talking to God: Thank God for the strength He gives you each day.
Diving In: Ask your family if they've ever seen a weight lifter show off his arm muscles. Encourage your kids to flex their biceps if they want. Then, ask your family to do this strength experiment: Place elbows on the table and put hands on either side of the face (not under the chin). Then, lean the weight of your head into your hands. Look around the table at each person's face as you do this. What do you see? Resting the weight of your head in your hands pulls the sides of your mouth up into a smile.
Going Deeper: We can rely on God to strengthen us when we place our lives in His hands. Just as the strength of your arm muscles held your head up, God strengthens us. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." When we face challenges in life, it's uplifting to know God is with us. His presence brings us joy and helps us face obstacles. That's a truth sure to make us smile!
Talking to Each Other: When have you felt God give you strength to do something difficult? How did it make you feel to accomplish that goal? How can we express the joy of the Lord each day?
Finishing Well: Read Nehemiah 8:10.
— Kathleen Welty
Talking to God: Thank God for the people in your life who help you learn more about Him. Ask God to help you recognize when other people's opinions do not agree with His Word.
Diving In: Hide a toy or snack in a place where family members would not think to look for it. Set a timer for five minutes, and tell them they can ask you questions about the location of the item while they hunt for it. (Here's the catch: When they do ask, shrug and give them random answers such as "blue" or "astronaut.") When the timer goes off, set it for another five minutes. But this time, answer their questions correctly to help them quickly find the item.
Going Deeper: Notice how it was impossible to find the hidden item when random answers were given. The item was easy to find, though, when the questions were answered correctly. People who are searching for something want clear directions.
Some people think it doesn't matter how you seek God or what you believe about Him. This "anything goes" attitude toward God is one form of what the world calls tolerance. The world's definition is not helpful to people who truly want a relationship with God. God's Word, on the other hand, gives very clear instructions. It does not treat all beliefs as equal; instead, it points to the one and only path, which is found in Jesus.
Matthew 7:13-14 says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." What you choose to believe about God matters. It is the most important choice of your life.
Talking to Each Other: How did unhelpful directions make you feel? Why are the right directions important when you're searching for something? What directions does God give us through His Word?
Finishing Well: Read Deuteronomy 30:19-20.
— Lee Smedly
The Big Picture
Talking to God: Thank God for giving you the blessing of hope on earth and in heaven.
Diving In: While it's easy for us to focus simply on the things around us, God always sees the entire story. Looking at life from our own limited view is like seeing the comic strip one frame at a time. Sometimes events in life may look disappointing. But we know that God sees the entire picture from beginning to end, and this knowledge gives us hope.
Consider the disciples. While Jesus was on the Cross, His disciples must have felt confused and disappointed. They trusted that Jesus was going to be the Savior and King, yet He died. How could that be?
God knew all along that Jesus would conquer death, but His suffering came before being glorified. Only after enduring three dark days without Jesus did the disciples start to understand the much bigger picture God had in mind. Because of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, our life in heaven is secure. We live with hope, not just for today, but for eternity.
Talking to Each Other: What is something that's easy for you to do? How might this same task be complicated for a younger child? What is something that may be simple for God but would be complicated for you?
Finishing Well: Read 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.
— Kim Washburn
Talking to God: Thank God that He is your joy, even in hard times.
Diving In: Ask one family member to lie down on the floor, flat on his back. Then, have someone else lie down too, with his head on the stomach of the first person. Continue this pattern until everyone is lying flat with another family member's stomach as a pillow. When everyone is lying down, connect the circle by putting the first person's head on the stomach of the last one to lie down. Then the fun begins.
Everyone should try to keep from laughing while repeating the word "ha." The first person says, "Ha." Then everyone lying in the circle repeats it in order. Then, the first person says, "Ha. Ha," and it is repeated. Then they say, "Ha" three times and so on until everyone begins to laugh together.
Going Deeper: Laughing feels great! But, sometimes in life it's difficult to laugh because of struggles we face. And that's OK. We can still have joy — even when we don't feel like laughing.
In difficult times, when we focus on the problems we are facing, it makes us feel sad. But, if we make the decision to focus on God, it helps increase our joy. "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" (1 Peter 1:8). This will help us have His joy, and perhaps friends around us will notice how great our God really is. Joy might even become contagious like in our game.
Talking to Each Other: List some things that God has done for you that make you joyful when you think of them. Name some songs about God's goodness or joy that would be good to sing when you are sad.
Finishing Well: Read Psalm 126:3.
— Jeanine Vogel
Talking to God: Thank God for being your joy today.
Diving In: Gather two glasses — one tall and narrow and the other short and wide. Pour equal amounts into each glass.
Then, introduce your family to two wonderful Christian "ladies." Tell your family Miss A (the tall glass) won an Olympic gold medal in figure skating and lives in a mansion, while Miss B (the short glass), uses a cane to walk and lives in a little cottage. Tell them the water represents the joy the ladies have in their hearts, and ask your kids to guess which lady has more joy.
Now place two identical empty glasses in the center of the table. Pour the water from Miss A into one and the water from Miss B into the other. This will demonstrate for your children that the amount of joy is the same for each lady regardless of her circumstances.
Going Deeper: Joy is different than happiness. While happiness is a feeling that comes and goes, joy is our contentment in God. Happiness is temporary (for the moment) and influenced by what happens to us. Joy is eternal (lasting forever) because it comes from a place of thankfulness to God. God doesn't want us to get mixed up and think a happy face is all there is to joy. Through the Bible He directs us to desire and keep a joyful heart. "You have made know to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence." (Psalm 16:11)
Talking to Each Other: How can we experience joy when we worship God? How can we experience joy on regular days? How might others see joy in us even when we face disappointments?
Finishing Well: Read John 15:10-11.
— Kathleen Welty
Talking to God: Thank God for the encouragement He gives us through His Word.
Diving In: Choose a family game that you haven't played in a while — one that you don't remember exactly how to play. Begin the game withoutreading the directions. At first it may seem funny, but soon the fun will wear off. When your kids express frustration and confusion, offer to read the directions. Then, play a few turns before continuing the discussion below.
Going Deeper: How did it feel to play the game when you didn't know what to do? When we're frustrated or confused, we often feel hopeless.
On the other hand, understanding makes us feel hopeful, and hope changes our attitude toward our circumstance. When we're confused or discouraged, we can find understanding by turning to God's Word. The Bible shows us the right way to live and reminds us that God is in control of our lives. His Word gives us confidence and builds our hope (Romans 15:4).
Talking to Each Other: What is your favorite encouraging Bible verse? How does this verse encourage you to stay focused on something when you otherwise might want to quit?
Finishing Well: Read Romans 15:4.
— Kim Washburn
Enjoying God's Love
Talking to God: Thank God that there is no limit to His love for us.
Diving In: Select food items from your pantry shelves and refrigerator — enough for each family member to choose two. Place these items in the middle of the kitchen table. Take turns picking items until all the food has been divided up. Then, have each family member hunt for the expiration date on his items. Talk about why food has an expiration date. What does it tell us?
Going Deeper: Unlike the food we eat, God's love has no expiration date. His love is unconditional and limitless. Psalm 103:11 says, "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him."
Because God's love is unconditional, we can't earn His it or do anything to make Him stop loving us. Our value in God's eyes never changes. Today, as you are enjoying His love, express your joy by singing a praise song, praying Scripture or talking about ways He has showed love for you.
Talking to Each Other: What are a few of the ways that God shows or tells us He loves us in the Bible? In what ways can we thank God for his love?
Finishing Well: Read Psalm 90:14.
— Melinda Taylor
God's Purpose for Things
Talking to God: Thank God that He has a purpose for every thing He gives us.
Diving In: Think of some of the unique things God has given you. In a show-and-tell format, take turns sharing about some of the gifts you treasure. Show your favorite items and explain why they're valuable to you.
Going Deeper: It's exciting to explore the things God's given to us. It's even more exciting when we understand that everything — even our belongings — has a purpose in God's plan.
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a story about three servants, each one entrusted with a valuable talent of money. Two of the servants were faithful and put their money to work for their master, using it to accomplish his purposes. And they were rewarded for their efforts when their master said, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" It's the same for us. As we use the things God's given us to work toward His goals, like blessing others, we're sharing in God's happiness.
Talking to Each Other: How has God met your needs with something He has given you? How can God meet the needs of those around you through some of the things He's entrusted to you?
Finishing Well: Read 2 Corinthians 9:6.
— Janine Petry
The Greatest Seed Ever Sown
Talking to God: Thank God for His miracle of raising Jesus from the dead.
Diving In: Pass around a kernel of dry corn, asking everyone to describe if it feels dead or alive and why. Set the kernel on a table and discuss what would happen to it if it were left there and never planted. Now pass around an ear of corn, asking how the kernels feel different than the one on the table. Ask everyone to guess how many kernels are on the ear of corn.
Going Deeper: An average ear of corn has 800 kernels! When someone puts one kernel of corn in the ground, it can produce a new plant. This plant makes many kernels that are like the one that was planted.
In a similar way, Jesus was buried, then God created new life through Him. Because of Jesus' resurrection, anyone in the world can have new life through Jesus and can become more like Him.
Talking to Each Other: Look around the room and outside. What do you see that came from a seed that was planted? Can other people see the new life of Christ in you? How? In what ways are you like Jesus?
Finishing Well: Read John 12:24.
— Renee Gray-Wilburn
Talking to God: Thank God for the hope He gives you every day. Ask Him to help you see that as your relationship with Him grows, so does your hope.
Diving In: Gather in a room that has little natural light. Although it is not necessary that the room be completely dark, prepare the room for this activity by turning off all lamps and main light sources.
Have one family member stand in the middle of the room with his eyes closed — no peeking! Gently spin him around and then have another family member turn on the brightest lamp in the room. The "blind" person's challenge is to find his way to the light without opening his eyes.
Going Deeper: In the Bible, Jesus calls himself "the light of the world" (John 8:12). Although we cannot see Jesus with our eyes, we can better recognize His light by learning His Word and knowing His character.
Disappointments at school or struggles at home can be hard to endure. Even if we don't understand why God is allowing us to struggle with something, Jesus proves through His faithfulness that He is deserving of our hope. If we focus on Jesus during our "dark times," we can have hope.
Talking to Each Other: When has God turned a hopeless situation in your life into a hope-filled one? How can we share the hope of God with others?
Finishing Well: Read Romans 5:5.
— Kim Washburn
Lost and Found
Talking to God: Ask God to help your family and friends to know Him better.
Diving In: Hide a cell phone where it is difficult to find. When the family gathers, tell them the cell phone is lost and ask them to join the search. A few minutes into the search, have a family member call the phone to find it. Celebrate together when you find what was lost.
Going Deeper: In Luke 15, Jesus told stories about lost things. He told of a shepherd leaving 99 sheep to find the one that was lost. He told of rejoicing when a widow found her lost coin. He told of a father welcoming a son who had lost his way. He helped us understand God’s sadness for His lost children.
It was painful for God when people "lost" their relationship with Him because of their sin. So He made a way for us to be forgiven and reunited with Him. He sacrificed His only Son for us. When we accept the forgiveness of our sin through this sacrifice, we are "found" and our relationship with God is restored.
Talking to Each Other: Do you know someone who is lost to God? How can you help your friends and family know Jesus?
Finishing Well: Read Luke 15:32.
— Lettie Kirkpatrick Burress
Plugged Into the Power Source
Talking to God: Thank God that you can rely on His strength. Ask Him to show you how to rely on Him more.
Diving In: Place a drain plug in the kitchen or bathroom sink, and hold a dry tissue flat over the sink. Have each family member place one quarter on the tissue. Slowly drip water onto the tissue and count how many seconds it takes for the quarters to rip through. Repeat this activity using a washcloth in place of the tissue.
Going Deeper: Discuss the different outcomes from this activity. The tissue wasn't able to support the weight of the quarters for very long, but the washcloth never fell apart. It was strong enough. It's easy for us to feel strong when things are going well. But when things begin to fall apart around us, we can lose hope.
If you run a long race and start out in the front of the pack, it's easy to feel encouraged and strong. But as the race goes on and others start to pass you, it's only natural to feel tired and discouraged. In the same way, when we face a challenge, it might be easy to rely on our own strength or resources for a while. But our energy can eventually wear out. Fortunately, God's strength never does. When we've exhausted all our resources, we can find hope in our all-powerful God.
Talking to Each Other: Name some areas in your life where you feel you might be running out of strength. What can you do to renew your strength?
Finishing Well: Read Isaiah 40:31.
— Kim Washburn
The Practice of Hospitality
Talking to God: Thank God for the ways in which He cares for you.
Diving In: Describe the different rooms in a nice hotel. Don't forget kitchens and restaurants, suites, lounges, laundry rooms — even pools and gift shops. Discuss the many things that are continually happening at a hotel.
Going Deeper: Despite all the different things that go on at a fancy hotel, they're all a part of accomplishing one, central focus: caring for people. Similarly, our homes have a lot of different rooms and a lot of different activities going on. And yet there is one central purpose: providing a place to care for people.
In Romans 12:13, the Bible teaches us to share with those in need and to practice hospitality. And when we open our homes to others — just like a nice hotel cares for guests — we're practicing hospitality.
Talking to Each Other: What's something that would help you feel welcome or cared for if you stayed in a nice hotel? When people come to your house, what can you do to care for them?
Finishing Well: Read 1 Peter 4:9.
— Janine Petry
The Share Dare
Talking to God: Ask God to make you more like himself as you learn to share with others.
Diving In: Fold a piece of paper in half, making two columns. On one side, list some things that you have a lot of — think of your toys, books and games. In the other column, list things that you only have one of — like a special toy or a favorite piece of clothing. When your lists are complete, discuss which things would be easiest to share and which would be more difficult to share.
Going Deeper: Sometimes it's easy to share — like when we have a lot of something. And sometimes it's really hard to share — like when we only have a little or when what we have seems precious. God set the best example of sharing when He sent His Son to us — His one andonly Son. "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him" (1 John 4:9). God gave us what was precious to Him — Jesus. As His children, we can show God's great love to others as we share generously.
Talking to Each Other: Think of a time when you were asked to share with someone. Did you share? How did you feel about your choice? Name something special that someone once shared with you. How did that person's generosity make you feel?
Finishing Well: Read 2 Corinthians 9:11.
— Janine Petry
The Spiritual Discipline of Meditation
Talking to God: Thank God for the power of His Word. Ask Him to help you stay focused on His Word throughout the day so you can become more like Jesus.
Diving In: Put out a plate of snacks. Give everyone permission to dive in, provided they follow one important rule: Each bite of food must be chewed at least 20 times. After each person finishes one bite, invite him or her to describe in detail the different tastes and textures experienced.
Going Deeper: Sometimes people say, "I need to chew on that," meaning, "I need to think about that for a while." When we meditate on Scripture, we're taking time to think about it and "chew on it." If we ate our food without chewing it, we'd hardly be able to taste it. The more we chew, the more we enjoy the taste and gain strength.
It's the same with God's Word. When we take time to think about what it means and how we can use it in our lives, we benefit much more than if we just read it and never think about it again. Romans 12:2 says that we change our lives by renewing our mind, or changing the way we think about things. We can learn to think like God by meditating on His Word.
Talking to Each Other: What things do you spend most of your time thinking about? How might your life change if you spent more time thinking about God's Word? What's one passage of Scripture you would like to begin meditating on?
Finishing Well: Read Joshua 1:8.
— Renee Gray-Wilburn
The Spiritual Discipline of Scripture Study
Talking to God: Thank God for His Word, which helps you understand what is best for your life, and pray that God would give you a desire to study and obey it.
Diving In: Grab a notebook and pen, and head outside or go exploring within your own home. Write down what you see, hear and smell. Younger kids can work with a parent or sibling. When everyone's finished, discuss the details you noticed when you carefully studied your surroundings. Talk about what you've never noticed before.
Going Deeper: Just as you can find new things in a familiar environment, you can always find new things in the Bible — even if you've read it before. When you read the Bible you should seek to discover new details of who God is, what He's like and how you can become like Him.
One way to make these discoveries is by studying the lives of Bible characters. Or you can study certain subjects, like prayer or giving. You can also study the Bible from beginning to end and journey with God through history. No matter what type of Bible study you choose, the Holy Spirit brings God's Word alive in your heart by helping you discover things you've never noticed before.
Talking to Each Other: What stories in the Bible are special to you? Why? What are the benefits of studying the Bible? What are some topics you would like to study in God's Word? (Refer to the concordance in the back of your Bible for topical ideas.)
Finishing Well: Read James 1:25.
— Renee Gray-Wilburn
To Whom Should We Show Hospitality
Talking to God: Thank God for His constant care. Ask Him to provide for the needs of those you love.
Diving In: Get ready to play a guessing game. One person will act as the dinner "host," and another person will act as the dinner "guest." Without telling the host, the guest must decide what kind of guest he will be — hungry, excited, scared, shy, annoying, grateful or tired. The guest must then act out his part while the host interacts with him and tries to guess what type of person has come for dinner. The guest can talk; he just can't give the answer. The host is given three guesses. Make sure everyone gets a chance to act as both the host and the guest.
Going Deeper: It's easy to invite our friends and family for dinner. But it's not always easy to welcome people we don't know very well. It can be even harder to share with those who are different from us. But that awkwardness shouldn't keep us from opening our hearts and our homes to those in need. Luke 14:13-14 says, "But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed." When we show hospitality to others, whether we know them well or we don't know them at all, we're joining God in caring for people in need. And we can be confident that He sees our generosity and is pleased.
Talking to Each Other: How does being kind to those in need make you feel? In what creative ways can you and your family share with those in need?
Finishing Well: Read Hebrews 13:2.
— Janine Petry
Waiting for Good
Talking to God: Thank God for planning good things for your family. Ask God to teach you to rely on Him even while you're waiting for those good things to come.
Diving In: Gather Popsicle sticks, white glue (not contact cement) and a ball of yarn. Create a cross by gluing two Popsicle sticks together. Wait patiently until the glue dries completely — this will take awhile. Then, spread a thin layer of glue on the sticks and wrap yarn around each section of the cross. You may need to untangle the yarn as you work. When the cross is completely decorated in yarn, tie the loose ends together.
Going Deeper: Waiting for the glue to dry and untangling the yarn were not the fun parts of the craft, but they were necessary parts. Consider how patience played a key role in finishing the cross.
Noah followed God's directions for building the ark. Then he waited 40 days and nights for the rain to stop. The Israelites followed God through the Red Sea. Then they all waited 40 years in the desert before they saw the Promised Land.
Being patient isn't easy. We often want to overcome challenges and problems as quickly as possible. But waiting for a breakthrough is easier when we put our hope in the Lord, knowing that in time He will bring good things — such as the rainbow and the Promised Land. We can strengthen our hope in God, and learn how to wait on Him, as we pray and read His Word.
Talking to Each Other: Describe a situation that took patience for you to work through. During your "wait," how did you find ways to be patient?
Finishing Well: Read Psalm 33:20.
— Kim Washburn
Why Jesus Died
Talking to God: Thank God for loving us so much that He was willing to send His only Son to die for our sins so that we can have a relationship with Him.
Diving In: Have family members gather in a room and line up against a wall. Tell them to face the wall and try (alone and together) to push the wall down. Ask, "Is there any way to go through this wall to the next room without going through the door?"
Going Deeper: Explain that the wall is a barrier separating the two rooms. In the same way walls create barriers between rooms, our sin placed a barrier between us and God. But Jesus' death and resurrection provide a way through the sin barrier that would otherwise keep us from a relationship with God. Because Jesus died and came back to life, He became the door that allows us to come to God.
Talking to Each Other: How do you feel when you do something wrong? How do you feel when you are forgiven for doing something wrong? Since Jesus has become the door that leads to God, how can we walk through that door?
Finishing Well: Read Ephesians 2:14.
— Lettie Kirkpatrick Burress